CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The sport of tearing into trails in backwoods in trucks and all-terrain vehicles, known among enthusiasts as "muddin'," is a part of life for many amateur daredevils who love to get dirty in rural West Virginia, just as it was for "BUCKWILD" cast member Shain Gandee.
It was a fitting pastime for the 21-year-old, one of the stars on a show that warned viewers not to mimic the "wild and crazy behavior" they witnessed — swearing, fighting, four-wheeling, even swimming in the bed of a dump truck-turned-swimming-pool.
He and two others were found dead inside an SUV on Monday about a mile from Gandee's Sissonville home. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department said Tuesday that autopsies confirmed they died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The vehicle was stuck so deep in a mud pit that its tail pipe was submerged; it is possible the gas flooded the cabin because of the clogged exhaust.
In one episode, he describes four-wheeling as a stress-reliever: "This is my medication right here," he says before getting stuck in a mud pit and blowing up his engine. And there was no place he enjoyed being more than behind the wheel in the woods, said Gandee's cousin Ashley Gandee Lewis.
Just two days before he died, Gandee had gone mudding with people he met Saturday at the grand opening of her general store in Proctorville, Ohio.
"He said, 'Let's go!' And they went," Lewis said. "Mudding's just taking your vehicle and finding the biggest mud holes you can get, and seeing how fast you can get through them. You can fish tail it sideways or get stuck.
"It's just about having a good time. It's just about making memories."
Authorities said Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old Donald Robert Myers were last seen around 3 a.m. Sunday at a bar and they told people they were going driving off-road. The SUV was found by one of Shain Gandee's friends next to a trail used by four-wheel drive vehicles, about 15 miles outside of Charleston.
The network has not said whether it was filming Gandee at the bar Sunday morning or after he left.
A four-wheeling charity event was being planned, with donations going to Gandee's family for funeral costs.
Jim Humphrey, a salesman at Morgantown Power Sports, said mudding is just a part of the Mountain State's history. People who live near lakes and oceans buy speedboats and personal watercraft. People who live near mountains and mud buy four-wheelers, he said.